Apple (AAPL) is no stranger to ditching technologies when it deems them to no longer be useful. The company dropped the floppy disk for a CD-ROM drive on the first iMac and most recently has shifted to building MacBooks and iMacs without any physical disc drives. In his first televised interview on NBC’s Rockcenter with Brian Williams, Apple CEO Tim Cook revealed that he has “ditched physical keyboards” now that he spends 80% of his time using his iPad “authoring email” and “working on things.” Cook says he’s gotten quite good at typing on the screen and advises people to trust auto-correction as it’s “quite good” — though it’s a feature we still blast iOS for some five years after the first iPhone launched. But what does it mean when the boss of the country’s most valuable company and the most revered technology company in the world doesn’t even use physical keyboards anymore? Perhaps the “post-PC” era will become mainstream sooner than we thought.
For years, Apple has touted the idea that we’re entering the “post-PC” era – a period when touchscreen-equipped smartphones and tablets will eclipse desktops, notebooks and complex operating systems as they slowly fade away into a niche reserved for professionals.
While there will still be a need for notebooks, Windows PCs and Macs, the increasing numbers of smartphones and tablets sold and continued decline of worldwide PC sales support Apple’s claim that mobile is where the next tech battleground is, even if Microsoft (MSFT) thinks otherwise.
The term “dogfooding” is often thrown around between tech blogs and Cook is doing exactly that — using his “own product to demonstrate the quality and capabilities of the product.”
As Steve Jobs once said, Apple only builds products its own engineers and designers would use themselves.
Cook’s not saying, “iPads are great” for some people and some tasks. The fact that Cook uses his iPad for 80% of his work and an iPhone all the time suggests he and Apple are serious about this post-PC era. Apple wants iPads and iPhones to be great for all of your computing needs.
Apple is serious enough about it that the big boss has shifted his habits from old-school typing on actual keyboards to using virtual keyboards. And for all we know, Cook could be using even more natural human interfaces such as more voice recognition (ex: Siri in iOS and built-in dictation in OS X Mountain Lion).
Will physical keyboards go the way of the dodo in the next handful of years? It’s doubtful, but don’t be surprised if you see fewer and fewer offices with QWERTY keyboards attached to PCs and more desks and execs just carrying tablets and a smartphone on the side.